Cover Image: The Splendid and the Vile

The Splendid and the Vile

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

A very deep look into Churchill's first year as Prime Minister. I learned so much. As an American, we tend to know about WWII mostly post Pearl Harbor. It was very interesting to see what was happening before we entered the war. It is a very dense read, like all his books. I had to take a break from it at times. But i have recommended it to many people. I missed it, but he was one of the last author visits to our city before everything shut down and I heard great things.
Was this review helpful?
Erik Larson could not write a mediocre book if he tried. His scholarship, keen eye for detail and ability to make the mundane seem fascinating are all on display here. For me, however, this is Lesser Larson, purely based on subject matter. There is much about Churchill's life that is splendid and quite a bit like the classic English roast: overdone. If you are a Winnie-phile, here's a feast. If he's all myth and cigar smoke, you may say Pooh!
Was this review helpful?
I really wanted to like this novel, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as many of Eric Larson’s previously published books.  I felt this one had more detail than I could handle.  My favorite Larson book is definitely “Devil in the White City”!
Was this review helpful?
Erik Larson is such a terrific writer, and this book is no exception.  Really well written, exciting and I learned quite a bit!  Terrific characters and a compelling storyline
Was this review helpful?
Larson turns his eye toward Winston Churchill and the early years of the war as the British wait for help from the elusive Americans. Larson has done his research and shows the interactions Churchill had with numerous military leaders, political figures and others in his orbit. This is not strictly a story of his public life but it also includes family and personal interactions. 

One can’t help but wish for Churchill’s continued entreaties to America to yield the help the Allies so desperately need. The political machinations are intriguing and show the complexity of the problem facing England as it is bombed, over and over, by the German Luftwaffe.

This should have appeal to those who have loved Larson’s other historical books or those who find WWII a topic that never ceases to have a new facet, a new angle to explore. If readers want to substantiate the factual information included in the book, Larson has included ample citations to verify the authenticity of historic details. He is a master of research and tremendously skilled at building an interesting story from myriad facts.
Was this review helpful?
The Splendid and the Vile opens on Hitler's Blitz and Winston Churchill unexpectedly being thrust into the seat of Prime Minster of England. Bombs are falling, the German Army is inching closer, and Churchill is faced with a war that no one is prepared for nor wants. While the facts have been laid down in history, readers now get to learn about what happened behind the scenes in the first dark year of war. 
Erik Larson has again written a thoroughly researched, yet very readable history. He has managed to include great details, such as journal entries from commoners and unofficial correspondences, while keeping the reader interested. Larson has at times left me feeling as if I was reading a story instead of a factual account of history. Many histories focus on the war after the Allies were fully formed. This in-depth spotlight on the first year of war opens readers eyes on just how perilous the situation was for England.
Was this review helpful?
This book was super interesting, well-written and very engaging. I have read a lot of WWII books, but not a lot that focused specifically on England and the blitz. I thought this book gave some really good insight into what was driving Churchill and his belief that he could get the Americans involved to turn back any potential German invasions. I learned about Churchill's just have to read it for yourself...but today, his quirks would be a potential work hazard (*see nudity). This book was informative, engaging and you just can't go wrong with an Erik Larson book.

I received a copy of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Was this review helpful?
Wow this was good! It took me a really long time to read for some reason, but I never lost the thread of the story or what was happening with each of the "characters." Although its primarily supposed to be a biography of Churchill, his family and associates get a lot of in-depth examination as well. I know pretty much only the main lines of all this history, so it was fascinating to get such a behind-the-scenes look into this extraordinary time.

Its almost unbelievable that the Brittish people were able to survive this period, and the eventual outcome was anything but sure. I knew the US involvement turned out to be key, but didn't realize the extent to which Churchill worked to make that happen.

I also really liked seeing so many of the other players in the drama, their motivations and involvement. I particularly liked the parts dealing with Mary and her diary, and how she saw the war and all the incidents that were occurring.

Larson's writing is extraordinary! This book reads almost like a novel, but he still includes all the endnotes that you would expect from a scholarly work. For anyone who's a fan of this time period, this is a must read! Highly Recommended!
Was this review helpful?
I have read a few of Erik Larson's books and have always enjoyed them. He makes history come alive in an engaging manner. World War II and life during that time is one of my main interests so I was very pleased to receive a copy of this book through NetGalley. This book focuses on Churchill during his first year as Prime Minister. It goes into great detail about the man himself but is an in-depth account of exactly what happened worldwide during that time. Larson quotes extensively from diaries kept during the time by Churchill's daughter, his secretary, and others, and doing so provides small details that go a long way to creating the big picture. This was a long book but I would happily have kept reading. I wish Larson would continue and work his way through Churchill's life and the war year by year.
Was this review helpful?
I'm a huge fan of Larson. What I like most about his past books is the entwining of two different stories that  eventually come together in a satisfying whole. This book did not do this but it was still a great read. The book follows the entire first year of Winston Churchill as prime minister. What amazed me is how much noteworthy material existed in one year of Churchill's life as PM for the book, . Some of it was fascinating, while other parts seemed to be just lists. A lot of the book focused on Churchill's unending quest to pull America into the war and Roosevelt's resistance to do so.  Overall it was a nice look into life–albeit and brief yet incredibly important–of  a great man.
Was this review helpful?
Crown Publishing and NetGalley provided me an electronic copy of The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. I voluntarily chose to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

The Splendid and the Vile encompasses Winston Churchill's first year as prime minister, following his day-to-day experience both personally and professionally. This first year coincided with the German air raid campaign against London, from May 10, 1940 to May 10, 1941. When Neville Chamberlain resigned as prime minister and Churchill became his successor, he had big shoes to fill. Balancing the needs of his family, his constituents, and his obligations to the Crown, Churchill embarked on one of the most difficult years of his life.

Author Erik Larson faced a difficult task in the writing of this book, as Churchill is one of the most prominent figures in history. Larson's unique look into the personal as well as public life of the man is thoughtful in its delivery and well planned out. As I often listen to history books instead of reading them, I opted to check out the audio version before writing this review. The narrator makes the book come to life and I would absolutely recommend listening to The Splendid and the Vile. That being said, this is a very dense book, so do not expect to read it in a weekend.
Was this review helpful?
ᗰY TᕼOᑌᘜᕼTᔕ: Once again, Larson writes a nonfiction book that reads like fiction. It is a look into Winston Churchill that celebrates his eccentricities, but also shows how he managed to lead the country through the pivotal time of WWII.

ᖇᗩTIᑎᘜ: ★★★★

Thank you to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I've been meaning to read this book for quite a while, so I was happy to vote for it (and even happier that this won the vote for our book club, since I already had my hands on a copy!). I quite thoroughly enjoyed this account of Churchill's first year as Prime Minister during World War II. Larson writes his nonfiction books like fiction - offering different perspectives of the same events and drawing out the action with real tension. The book is quite detailed, but remains engaging informative - and even emotional and exciting. I have to admit, though, that the history major in me still wishes that Larson had chosen to follow a more traditional citation method (this really does read like fiction) but that would be my only complaint on what is otherwise quite a stellar read. I can definitely see why this book has gotten so much positive attention! Larson takes larger-than-life Churchill and manages to make him both more down-to-earth while also revealing just how remarkable and idiosyncratic that he truly was! I also appreciated the thoroughness of the ending.

And I am quite curious to see what everyone will think about it on Sunday! It's well-written and I am genuinely impressed with it! I was quite surprised to be moved to tears in a few parts and I am definitely quite interested to see what topic Larson tackles next!
Was this review helpful?
Larson does not disappoint.  This books gives a behind the scenes glimpse of the British government at the start of WWII.  Using first hand accounts,  Larson tells the story of Churchill and his family, staff, opposition and enemies and their parts in saving Great Britain from obliteration. 

Parts of this book are very detailed but Larson is able to tell the story without the dry retelling usually associated with historical non-fiction. A great read.
Was this review helpful?
Erik Larson has the amazing ability to make a seemingly dry subject project in your mind as a detailed movie. He is an excellent author and displays compelling subject matter.
Was this review helpful?
Beautifully written, well-paced, and makes a very familiar subject, the London Blitz, seem fresh and new. Another winner from Erik Larson!
Was this review helpful?
I love this book! Erik Larson always pulls me in with his masterful, well researched storytelling. He is always a must read
Was this review helpful?
As much as I love Larson's books, and while I did enjoy this one, I struggled with it.  Overall, pretty good.  But a little boring, IMO.  3/5 Stars
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC.

This review is a tough one for me because sometimes I was completely engrossed, and other times, I was wondering why I was reading this book, what I was getting out of it. 
I am a fan of Erik Larson, and one of the aspects of his writing that I like is the minutiae, but he has a tendency to get bogged down in it, and I felt that at times here.  
This book focuses on just one year of the war, but the focus is more on the personalities of the people that surrounded Churchill than details about strategy, which I am fine with, but it was not what I was expecting. I found the weaving in of Hitler and his gang as well as Roosevelt and his people an interesting way to present the war. Of course, the books ends as America gets into the war, finally.
Also, at the same time that I started this book, I was finishing Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict. It covers way more of their life than this book does, and the focus is more on Clementine than Winston, but the two books together make an interesting pair.
All-in-all, this is a book about the people in power at the time of war and how they gained their strength from the regular people who endured the worst of it. And, if you appreciate that, I think you will like this book.
Now, I hope you will allow me a brief diversion here because the whole time that Larson was explaining Churchill’s pleading with America to get into the war, I could not help thinking about the bit Eddie Izzard does in Dress to Kill about how long it takes America to arrive:

“We came first in the war, but we were
Financially [messed up]by the end.
Cos for a time
it was just us and the Nazis.
They'd been making weapons for ages.
We were going, "Get the tanks out!"
"We haven't got any."
"Get that ice cream van out, then."
"All right…
Just throw everything at them!
"Orange Fruities and Zooms,
throw the Zooms!
"Pots and pans!
Throw the pots and pans at them!"
By the time America came in -
you were watching a US cavalry film.
The US cavalry always comes in
towards the end of the film.
"OK, let's go, America."
We were going,
"[Bloody]hell, where've you been?"
America:"Having breakfast.
So, what's going on?"
Was this review helpful?
Erik Larson is a master storyteller!  He repeatedly manages to thoroughly research his topics and write nonfiction that grabs the reader like fiction.  By telling stories of family as well as giving military details, he paints a picture of a terrible time in history.  Churchill's strategic mind, along with his ability to embolden the British people, made for fascinating.reading material.
Was this review helpful?